What separates College Pride Press from the rest? Why do we all love college basketball? Games like this are the reminder and the answer as you are hearing this straight from a Kansas Jayhawk who was in attendance at this phenomenal triple overtime back-and-forth thriller between the top two teams in the country last night. Not from some older analyst, but from a student, just like many of you.
This game was definitely one to remember and several analysts and fans are arguing that this No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Oklahoma match-up could go down as the greatest regular season game, EVER. To put this in comparison, the last time a #1 #2 game went to triple overtime was back in 1957 when Wilt Chamberlain was the starting center for the Jayhawks (Kansas-North Carolina Title Game, ESPN). The electric watch was first invented and the average American home cost only $2,330.
The match-up featured the top team from the AP Poll against the top team in the USA Today Coach’s Poll. The game was completely unpredictable, featured huge point swings and opposing runs, and crucial mistakes down the stretch from both the players and the referees. Every time a player went down and hit a big shot that looked like the winner, the other team would just come right back and counter with a shot of their own. 55 minutes of, as quoted by Perry Ellis, “Just heart.”
There was a lot of hype coming into the game as Oklahoma was off to their best start in nearly three decades and had not even won in Lawrence in 22 years. Several match-ups were highlighted as Buddy Hield was expected to have a huge outing in order for Oklahoma to win this game and Wayne Selden had come off a hot game against Baylor two days earlier. The Perry Ellis vs. Ryan Spangler match-up was also highlighted as a huge X-factor coming into Monday night. And boy, did it deliver.
Experience began to show down the stretch as the game’s best players were seniors in Buddy Hield and Perry Ellis. Buddy put up 46 points on 13 for 23 shooting from the field on top of 12/14 shooting from the line, 8/15 from three, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. His point total tied for the most ever by an opponent at the Fieldhouse. He played all but one minute of the game, as five separate players played more than 50 minutes and everyone was on their last breath by the end.
Ellis countered with 27 points and 13 rebounds and hit several big shots as he seemed as Kansas’s go-to man when it mattered most.
Both teams shot great from three as Oklahoma hit 18 threes off 48.5% shooting and Kansas had 11 threes on 50% shooting. The game also featured a huge 20-point swing in just five minutes as a 37-26 KU lead with 3 minutes left in the first half turned into a 51-42 Sooner lead with 18 minutes to go in the second. There were a combined 182 field goals this game, the most in any Division-I game this season.
The game came down to the finals seconds four times, as the Jayhawks had chances to win the game in regulation and the first two overtimes. Lattin missed a crucial free-throw on the front end of of a one and one with 2 seconds left in regulation that would have given Oklahoma the lead. The end of the third overtime was crazy as Graham hit two free throws to tie the game to get a one-point lead and Hield threw away the ball on the controversial following in bounds play to Mason, who hit two free throws to put Kansas up 109-106. Hield then couldn’t hit a tough shot to tie the game at the buzzer and Allen Fieldhouse went crazy.
Ellis and Hield weren’t the only with big games as Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard put up 27 points and 7 assists, serving as a crucial sidekick to Hield when he was denied the ball by an aggressive defender in Frank Mason III. Oklahoma was definitely hurt when Woodard fouled out in the third overtime, Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin both put up double doubles (14 points/18 rebounds, 10 points/14 rebounds, respectively). Lattin was a also a great interior defensive presence as he put up 6 blocks out of Okalohoma’s 12 in the game.
On the other end, Devonte’ Graham had 22 points on 12 shots, and Wayne Selden put up 21 points of his own, both hitting big three-pointers in the game’s latter stages. Frank Mason III had a great overall game putting up 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. He guarded Hield for all 53 minutes he was in the game and did as great a job as anyone could, but Hield was something else that night hitting multiple shots in the face of Mason and over his outstretched arms. His two steals in the final 21 seconds sealed the game for Kansas, as the “Defense Decides” saying came true.
Self himself said, “If Frank hadn’t defended him, he would have gone for 60,” and jokingly referred to Hield’s outstanding shooting performance as similar to Kevin Durant.
Landen Lucas had to play crucial minutes down the stretch as Jamari Traylor found himself limping near the end of the second half. He hit crucial free throws, as Kansas had their best game at the line all season, going 18-23 to match Oklahoma’s 18-24.
This game marked Kansas down as the sole true No. 1 in College Basketball, with Oklahoma right there on their heels as long as Hield is around. The overall team play with several weapons that can take over coupled with the experience we haven’t seen in a while in college basketball makes Kansas an early favorite for the trophy in March.
Words alone cannot describe this game. Go make time and find a replay of the game to see the madness that occurred on January 4th, 2016 for yourself. Also, mark February 13th in your book as we got the same match-up down in Norman, Oklahoma.
Interesting things to note:
-Kansas scored more points in this game alone (109) than their football team did in all of Big 12 play (108).
-Several Kansas fans stuck around after the game to give Buddy Hield a standing ovation.
-Dick Vitale said that this game was the loudest he had ever heard, reaching nearly 120 decibels.